I’m lucky. My gal-friends are intelligent, thoughtful women. When we get together, we don’t talk about the latest Kardashian mess or other celebrity scandals. (Side note: I am mildly horrified that I spelled Kardashian wrong while writing this post and my spell check picked it up and corrected it. OK, I’m not even mildly horrified. I’m just downright horrified. When did Kardashian get added to the dictionary? Alas, this is a topic of exploration for another day.)

My friends, like me, probably can’t spell Kardashian on the first try either. When we get together, we talk about politics and movies and the ups and downs of raising children. And we talk about books.

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During a recent Galentine’s Day (the day before Valentine’s day touted as ladies celebrating ladies) brunch, I was struck by how much books dominated our conversation. We were five ladies huddled around a table sipping mimosas and coffee, talking about black holes and the perils of violence in movies. The sun beamed down on us through the large windows of the restaurant, a welcome metaphor for our bright conversation.

As the topics transitioned from upcoming trips to Spain to psychological constructs of happiness, this emotion came over me. Pride. My friends, my galentines, take the stereotype of groups of women getting together for brunch and gossiping and tear it apart. Not once did anyone lean in and whisper conspiratorily, “Did you hear what happened to Mary Jo?” (For the record, as far as I know, we don’t actually know any Mary Jo’s.)

Instead, we delved into ideas and theories and problems and books. I’m not sure the women in our brunch group even realized how many books we talked about in the few short hours we spent together, so natural is the integration of books into our daily lives.

These books were name-dropped based on where the mapless conversational roads carried us. The only bridges between the books were their ability to stimulate conversation. I think that deserves a list.

So here is what I’m calling the Brunch Bunch Stimulating Conversation Book Recommendation List (aka, the BBSCBRL). OK, I may need to come up with a better name. But, if you’re interested in reading books you’ll talk about with your friends, this might be the list for you. It’s eclectic with a variety of genres and topics. Enjoy!

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson


Amazon Description:

Because your brain evolved to learn quickly from bad experiences, but slowly from good ones. You can change this.

Life isn’t easy, and having a brain wired to take in the bad and ignore the good makes us worried, irritated, and stressed, instead of confident, secure, and happy. But each day is filled with opportunities to build inner strengths and Dr. Rick Hanson, an acclaimed clinical psychologist, shows what you can do to override the brain’s default pessimism.

Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace.

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

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Amazon description: “Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Amazon description: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized.

Also mentioned in our conversations by Albertalli: The Upside of Unrequited

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

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Amazon description: In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg reignited the conversation around women in the workplace.

Sandberg is chief operating officer of Facebook and coauthor of Option B with Adam Grant. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TED talk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which has been viewed more than six million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

Lean In continues that conversation, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson


Amazon description: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Only in Spain: A Foot-Stomping, Firecracker of a Memoir about Food, Flamenco, and Falling in Love by Nellie Bennett

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Amazon description: Ten-hour shifts in a high-end department store and catering to snooty customers…Nellie Bennett’s life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. But maybe all she needs to do is infuse a little passion into her routine―through flamenco dance lessons, for instance.

What Nellie doesn’t realize is that flamenco is not just a dance―it’s a way of life that seems much more enticing than her depressing retail gig. So she packs her suede dance shoes and leaves everything she knows behind, flying halfway around the world to seek the authentic experience in Seville, where the dark-eyed gypsy boys and mouth-watering tapas are enough to make Nellie want to stay in Spain forever. And why shouldn’t she?